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Lew: 'Congress is playing with fire'

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Sunday ratcheted up the administration's  efforts to convince congressional Republicans that they should step back from their push that the White House accept major changes to ObamaCare in exchange for raising the borrowing limit and reopening the federal government.

Making the rounds on all five major Sunday morning news shows, he reiterated the dire consequences for U.S. and global economies if lawmakers don't reach an agreement by Oct. 17 — 11 days from now.

“We’re on the verge of going into a place we’ve never been — not having the cash to pay our bills," Lew said on "Fox News Sunday."

"It is irresponsible and it is reckless to take that chance" on a debt ceiling crisis, he said.

He argued that "Congress is playing with fire if they don't extend the $16.7 trillion debt limit" and that “it would be very bad" for the economy.

A Treasury report released Thursday said "a default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic."

“We’ve never crossed this line, so everyone is speculating," Lew said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

But Republicans showed no signs of budging in their plans to extract significant concessions from the White House, including a rollback of ObamaCare.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) urged the president on Sunday to come to the negotiating table, arguing that it is Obama's unwillingness to talk about a deal that is the biggest risk to the nation's financial security.

"The president's refusal to talk is resulting in a possible default on our debt," Boehner said on ABC's "This Week."

Boehner also  said the House does not have the votes to pass either a "clean" stopgap spending measure or raise the debt limit.

"I told the president that there's no way we're going to pass it when the votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit," he said.

President Obama and Democratic leaders have repeatedly said they will not agree to make sweeping changes to the healthcare law as an avenue for reopening the government or raising the debt limit.

Senate Democratic leaders have referred to the demand as "hostage-taking."

"This is playing with fire and we're happy to negotiate, but we want to negotiate without a gun to our head," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on ABC.

Lew argued that while Republicans have chided Obama, the GOP "has not come forward and made comparable movement" toward a shutdown repeal or debt limit deal.

In response, House and Senate Democrats have dared Boehner to put "clean" spending and debt limit bills on the floor, arguing they would pass with their help and a growing number of Republicans who have conceded that their strategy to stop the implementation of the healthcare law has been unsuccessful.

But Boehner remained unmoved, saying his members decided that now was the time to take the fight to the White House and that they will seek major changes on the healthcare law, as well as entitlement reforms.

In addition, Boehner said Republicans won't accept any proposal that includes tax increases.

They also are pressing for a dollar-for-dollar reduction in spending for the amount of the debt ceiling increase, whatever that may be.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash) argued that she has been trying for months to get a budget conference together with the House to no avail.

She said six days into the shutdown, Boehner is "simply trying to distract from his constantly changing list of demands."

"As soon as Speaker Boehner ends this shutdown and stops threatening the economy with a potentially catastrophic default, I am certainly ready to get to work in a budget conference he has spent the past six months avoiding," she said in an emailed statement.

The United States hit the debt ceiling in May and Treasury will exhaust its "extraordinary measures" to continue paying the nation's bills on Oct. 17.

Lew estimates that the Treasury will have about $30 billon on hand with about $370 billion in debt coming due through Nov. 15, according to he Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).

"Anyone who thinks that the United States government not paying its bills is anything less than default hasn't thought about it very clearly," Lew said on CNN's "State of the Union."

The calls to pass a debt ceiling measure comes amid a government shutdown.

“The shutdown is harming people every day," Lew said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

“There are no winners here."

--Carlo Muñoz and Kyle Balluck contributed to this report, which was originally published at 9:38 a.m. and last updated at 4:45 p.m.

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